Kathy Gyngell is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies.
Last week on Woman’s Hour that godmother of feminism, Bea Campbell, in suitably sepulchral tones, informed a shocked Jenni Murray that the amount of housework men do has only increased by a minute a year over three decades. Murray did not raise an eyebrow at this ridiculous statistic. She waited in respectful anticipation for more evidence of the victimisation of women.
Today this crazy insistence on gender parity in the home and in the workplace frames every aspect of public policy. It matters not which political party is in power, feminist orthodoxy reigns supreme. In an act of utter futility, the Conservatives pursue women voters on Labour’s gender equality ticket. As Paul Johnson of the IFS wrote recently, political agreement is fine, unless it is wrong.
Having all the main parties putting women’s rights (meaning paid work) before children’s needs and family stability is wrong.
Letting the myth of “high quality affordable childcare” persist, though it is as elusive as it was 25 years ago, is wrong.
Allowing millions of infants to be looked after by a succession of strangers when “other” care is neither high quality, affordable or appropriate, is wrong.
They turn out to be wrong for women too. Women despair of the work/childcare treadmill engineered through so-called family-friendly policies. Six-out-of-ten want to work fewer hours and spend more time with their children; four-out-of-ten want to give up work altogether to look after their children.
But they’re trapped. Thanks to women’s rights.
No pressure group in modern British history has been more successful than the feminists in achieving its aims. From childcare to the benefits system, from schooling to laws on marriage, it has led us blindly from dependence on family and on each other to dependence on the State.
Families have fragmented; society has come apart economically and socially, most among those who can least afford it – the poor.
More adults live alone than ever before; marriage rates are at an all-time low; 3.8 million dependent children live with a lone parent; a large unmarried underclass lives benefit-dependent in man deserts. Ours is the highest teen pregnancy and abortion rate in Western Europe. There is a crisis in teenage mental health.
This is the cost of the social and cultural liberalism that feminism waves the banner for.
The fundamental irony is that it means less freedom and choice not more. This loss of independence and the State’s takeover of our lives as far as children are concerned was brilliantly encapsulated by Jill Kirby in her pamphlet, The Nationalisation of Children.
Jill, like Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) and the Marriage Foundation, knows that reversing these trends means reform of family taxation to recognize marriage again.
Despite the logic and rectitude of the case, the Westminster village has remained deaf. Not one woman MP has made it her mission to represent the woman who choses care over career or to push for the transferable tax allowance. Not even in the Conservative Party.
Yet as British Social Attitudes shows young women value motherhood and family life – it is their feminist baby boomer mothers who are out of step.
Laura Perrins, former barrister and stay at home mother, stole the headlines when she accused Nick Clegg of regarding women like her as worthless and lazy. It alerted the media to the fury of millions of women at being so patronised.
The time was overdue; the need was there. So with the support of a group of likeminded women – including Jill Kirby, Sharon James, the head of social policy at the Christian Institute, and Philippa Taylor, a consultant on bioethics and the family – Laura and I decided to launch The Conservative Woman. We advocate social conservative solutions to modern-day problems.
The purpose and the strength of The Conservative Woman is that it provides a platform for all (men and women) who wish to challenge this pervasive Left-feminist agenda – just as economist Ruth Lea did on the site yesterday. Inequalities of outcome between men and women are not, she pointed out, a symptom of entrenched negative discrimination, but a reflection of individual choices.
Our targets include the rights culture. It has become an injustice to deny “my rights”, Philippa Taylor also writes on the site today. But individualistic “me” culture self-gratification has proved a toxic cocktail when mixed with radical feminism. Treating others as means to our ends, or sacrificing anything that stands in the way of our wants, whether dependent relatives or unborn children, sound the death knell for a civilized society.
Our aim in giving a voice to such original women thinkers is to bring such critiques back from the margins to the centre stage of politics.